By: Cailey Griffin
When most students start their first year of college, they are usually excited about similar things and when I began my Freshman Year at DePauw University I was no exception. I couldn’t wait to meet my professors, get started on the Broadcast Journalism career I’d been dreaming about my whole life, and above all else, I couldn’t wait to meet new people. My first night of college, I met more students than I could count on two hands, all of whom were anxiously wanting to make friends and begin the life journey they’d heard so much about. My initial interactions with these students always began with the same question: Where are you from?
At the majority of colleges, students come from not only all over the U.S, but other countries as well, and DePauw is no exception. Because of this, I knew I was bound to meet other students from the Midwest, and more specifically my hometown of Chicago. When I did meet several fellow Chicagoans we were both ecstatic to find someone else who could relate to the unique culture that only comes with growing up in Chicago. I also met people from across the country, and the world, who had no experience with Chicago and viewed the city through the singular lens that’s often perpetuated through different forms of media. Students not from Chicago didn’t ask me the questions I expected to hear such as: “How beautiful is the skyline at night?”, “Have you ever been to the top of the sears tower”, or “Do you know how to step?”. The questions I did receive was: “Do you know any gang members?” “Have you ever been shot?”, and “How do you survive living in a place like Chicago?”.
When I first began getting these, what at the time felt like insensitive questions, I was upset. But then I practiced the necessary task of self-reflection and asked myself, can I truly blame them for viewing Chicago this way? And as much as I wanted the answer to be yes, I realized that it was no. When most people read a news article, watch a documentary, or watch a newscast about Chicago, they will be exposed to all of the shootings and deaths that happen to innocent people in Chicago on a daily basis. Even Chicagoans who truly love the city, fear for their lives and make plans to leave Chicago permanently all the time. Gun violence in Chicago is a big issue and is something that needs to receive a higher priority of correction. However, we shouldn’t forget all of the great things that make Chicago so special such as the amazing food, killer architecture, and rich history.
Chicago is also the place that raised so many influential people. For some Chicago’s the place where their parents taught them how to ride a bike, where they had their first kiss, or where they realized their passion. For others, Chicago is the place where they spent a large part of their life growing into who they are today. Chicago, even with all its problems, is essentially what made these people who they are today. So who are all these monumental people? Two of the most popular representations of Chicago are Barack and Michelle Obama. Before Michelle Obama became the First Lady of the United States from 2009-2007, she was just a young girl growing up on the South Side of Chicago, in the South Shore neighborhood, starting the process of becoming the phenomenal woman she is today. Although Barack Obama wasn’t born in Chicago he moved to Chicago right after college, which is a time when most are still figuring themselves out, and he was eventually elected to Illinois State Senate in 1996. Barack Obama raised his family in the Hyde Park neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago before becoming the 44th President of the United States, and the first Black president at that.
Chicago is also responsible for allowing the growth and flourishment of people in more creative fields such as the arts and media. Common, who is a Grammy Award-winning American Actor, Poet, Rapper, and Film Producer was born and raised in Chicago. There’s also Oprah Winfrey who spent a great deal of her life in Chicago when she began hosting the popular talk show A.M Chicago in the 80’s. Oprah then went on to host The Oprah Winfrey Show in Chicago until 2015.
Chicago’s issue with Gun Violence is absolutely a cause for concern, that must be addressed. However, even with all of its issues, Chicago serves as a positive life-changing city that so many people love and it’s okay to tell those stories too.